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Know Your Learning Styles

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We have long known that students learn differently, but until the middle of the 20th century, there was little documented research. Now there are tons of studies, books, and advice on the subject. However, it is always my goal to provide you with information and resources that you can implement quickly, easily, and yet successfully. So subscribing to the philosophy that simpler is better, let’s talk about the three main learning styles: visual, auditory, and tactile. These will be discussed in the next several articles. Of course, each of us has elements of all three, but for most of us, one learning style dominates. Let’s look at some prominent characteristics of each. Visual learners pick up information most easily by seeing. They typically enjoy reading and are good at it. These students are also good observers, attentive to details. They are generally organized, with good handwriting and spelling skills. Visual learners likely can remember where on a page specific information appeared. They can often visualize, or see in their mind’s eye, what is being told to them. Therefore, they are imaginative and creative. Auditory learners take things in best by hearing them. They often read aloud or mouth the words as they read. Auditory learners like music, are talkative, and are usually outgoing. They may enjoy drama and being read to. They are often not even aware that they are reading aloud. Tactile learners like to be “hands-on.” They are in motion most of the time, usually enjoy touching and being touched, and often gesture when talking. They may wear their emotions on their sleeves – quick to laugh, quick to anger, quick to tears – but also quick to forgive. These are the pencil tappers, the leg jerkers, the fiddlers. They learn while doing. I’m sure you can see the problem in terms of a classroom: visual learners need quiet and are distracted by noise and activity. Auditory learners need to talk seemingly non-stop, while quiet makes it difficult for them to concentrate. And tactile learners need to be moving, and can easily distract someone else. Moreover, when you tell tactile learner to quit tapping, jerking, and fiddling, they will be unable to take in information because it takes all their concentration just to hold still. In order to help your student develop good habits and for everyone to communicate, it’s helpful to know both your learning style and your student’s. If you go on line and type “learning styles” in the search line, you will get many options. Look for ones that are the simplest. And remember to answer the questions yourself; don’t ask friends or family what they think. Also, go with your initial response. Future articles will talk about each learning style in more detail with specific strategies for each.